The 600 - Predicting the Popularity of Throne of Eldraine Commanders

Watch the Throne

I refuse to start this article with "Once upon a time." So instead, I'll start like this...

Hey. Welcome to The 600.

This is the article series where we predict how popular new commanders will become. If we believe they'll lead over 600 EDHREC decks by the end of one calendar year, we grade "Over." If we believe they'll go under, we grade "Under." Plus, we do a "Can't Miss Pick," which is our guaranteed Over.

Ready? Let's begin.

Kenrith, the Returned King

Fun fact: Before he became King of Eldraine, Kenrith starred as King Arthur in the 1975 comedy masterpiece Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

…Oh wait, that was allegedly Graham Chapman. Can I get a side-by-side on these two?

Yup, definitely the same guy.

Anywho, Kenrith, the Returned King of the Britons may look like a mono-white commander at first glance, but he's actually a sweet five-color fella. As we've seen time and time again, this subtle five-color status greatly improves his odds of hitting 600 decks. Reminds me of this card:

Both have one activated ability in each color, and each activation varies in power level. Yet despite its five colors, the Obelisk only appears in 149 decks, even after about a decade of existence.

Still, King Kenny offers something the Obelisk does not: political sway. Note that each of his abilities can affect anyone's creatures, not just your own! That means he fits into Group Hug decks, which have been an enduring EDH archetype among many.

Though he is the Buy-A-Box promo and I've been burned on one of those recently (see Rienne, Angel of Rebirth), I'm willing to take another chance on this guy. He's splashy, fun, versatile, and five-color commanders are so hot right now.

My Prediction: Over

Linden, the Steadfast Queen

Unless you play music from the band Queen while piloting the Steadfast Queen, don’t run her. She offers marginal upside in the format’s worst color, she’s prohibitively costed, and it appears she’s raided Queen Amidala’s wardrobe. She will not rock you.

My Prediction: Under

Syr Alin, the Lion's Claw

I would not invite this dude to my Round Table, despite his apparent flair for dramatic entrances. Like the other uncommon legends we'll see in this set, Alin's legendary supertype feels more like a flavorful nod than an invitation to select him as commander. I'd be surprised if this guy even hit triple digits.

My Prediction: Under

Emry, Lurker of the Loch

An interesting mono-colored commander—and this one doubles as a Pantene ad! But will she earn 600 decks?

The odds are stacked against her. Why? Because she's competing for decks with this guy...

Urza, Lord High Artificer is already the fourth-most popular mono-blue commander in EDHREC history with 701 decks (don’t worry, he was the Can't-Miss Pick of my Modern Horizons 600 article). Like Emry, Urza interacts with artifacts, which leads me to believe he’ll helm most mono-blue artifact decks of the near future. That doesn’t leave many decks for Emry.

Or does it? Admittedly, our Lurker interacts with artifacts differently than Urza. The self-mill element is interesting, as is the cost-reduction clause. She's also rife with combo potential, as any degenerate Modern player will tell you. And she's definitely got the hype factor, which helps more in Magic than it does in, say, the NFL (just ask the Cleveland Browns).

Alright self, you've convinced myself. Or yourself. Ourselves? Whatever, here's the grade.

My Prediction: Over

Gadwick, the Wizened

In my opinion, the most exciting attribute of Gadwick is his wardrobe. Just look at those sweet threads.

The rest isn't so sweet. He wants mostly cheap instants and flash creatures, which allow you to tap down potential attackers on your opponents’ turns. He does his best Braingeyser impression to help you find more of those cards.

Meh. I'm not feeling it and I don't think many other players will, either. (Gadwick would kill it on Project Runway, though.)

My Prediction: Under

Syr Elenora the Discerning

Elenora takes work to become threatening, and even then she’ll have at most four toughness. The mini-Frost Titan effect is decent but underwhelming. Plus, players like drawing cards, not just card.

My Prediction: Under

Rankle, Master of Pranks

Puck comes to Magic. Greetings to you, Robin Goodfellow! Likely to prank Standard players, yes...but will he appear in EDH?

Let's start with his bulleted list. The first ability (each player discards a card) can prove advantageous for Rankle’s owner, especially in a Madness or Reanimator deck. The second (each player draws a card and loses a life) feels less interesting. Giving opponents free cards is indeed a prank—only it’s on you, not them. Barring the presence of an Underworld Dreams, you likely won’t pressure your opponents’ life totals enough to leverage the damage. Finally, the third ability (each player sacrifices a creature) seems potent, especially if you have tokens and your opponents don’t.

My biggest issue with Rankle, however, doesn’t have anything to do with Rankle himself. It’s this:

In just over a month of existence, Yawgmoth’s kid already leads 570 decks and counting. As far as I can tell, he’s the primary mono-black commander from here on out, and the standard by which all future mono-black commanders will be compared.

Shall I compare thee to Yawgmoth’s Son? Nay, I say. No comparison there.

My Prediction: Under

Syr Konrad, the Grim

Whenever a creatures switches zones with this grim goober on the battlefield, you'll need to check the rules text. Therefore, I've renamed him "Syr Konrad, the Slow Play Warning."

Sure, he's kind of interesting. Also, many EDH players have an unhealthy obsession with mill and Aristocrats strategies. Those are all points in favor… until we get to the color identity.

I’m out. Mill is made so much stronger when we add blue, and it's just awkward in mono-black. Aristocrats is also great with other colors (Teysa Karlov and Meren of Clan Nel Toth, for instance). If players are building mono-black decks, they’re competing with K'rrik's new hotness. Konrad helps out a bunch of decks in the 99, but at the helm himself, I don’t personally see it for Syr Slow Play Warning.

My Prediction: Under

Ayara, First of Locthwain

So I found this article in People Magazine the other day. The title: “Ayara Marries Again; Locthwain Populous A Little Nervous.” Here’s an excerpt:

When Ayara and her seventh husband, Craig, met for the first time, it was like a storybook romance.

“It was awesome,” Craig recalled in an earlier interview. “Our opponents all lost a life, we gained a life. I was like, ‘Cool.’”

And then, tragedy struck. According to reports, Ayara sacrificed Craig one night, just so she could draw a card.

When pressed for comment on the issue, Ayara confirmed it. “Yes, I did sacrifice Craig. And I topdecked a [expletive] Swamp.”

Whoa, juicy. Anyway, that’s the flavor and general play pattern behind the card, which seems decent but not overly exciting. We’ve already delved into the K’rrik effect in mono black, so no need to restate it here. While I think Ayara will make an excellent addition to various decks, I doubt she’ll lead many of her own. She's a great interview, though.

My Prediction: Under

Syr Carah, the Bold

Playing cards from the top of the deck in mono-red reminds me of Etali, Primal Storm (a commander which never eclipsed the 600 mark). Carah’s also a Knight in the Knight payoff colors, which might offer tribal synergies. Finally, the tap ability targets anything, so one might pick off mana dorks or annoying utility creatures.

All fine enough, but nothing particularly remarkable for prospective deck builders. I expect Syr Carah, the Bold to fall somewhere in the 100-200 deck range.

My Predictions: Under

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

I expect many players to slap this guy on the table, then bellow the following in a somewhat-Scottish accent, “And my axe!” Just don’t overdo it.

Mono-red has gotten some big weapons of late. An array of powerful Chandra planeswalkers, Dockside Extortionist, Runaway Steam-Kin, Experimental Frenzy, and Goblin Chainwhirler, just to name a few. That last one seems especially sweet when it deals three damage to all opposing players and their creatures. I'll invite this Dwarf to my Fellowship.

My Prediction: Over

Syr Faren, the Hengehammer

This guy rides a bear. That's pretty much the only nice thing I have to say about him.

Pump him, he pumps your other creatures, that’s pretty much it. Can't think of any multiple combat step cards in mono-green. And please don't resort to combat tricks.

My Prediction: Under

Questing Beast

This is one of the stranger cards I’ve ever seen. Does that mean it will earn 600 decks?

For starters, vigilance, deathtouch, and haste are a nice suite of keyword abilities. The anti-chump blocking clause is also beneficial. Okay, okay.

And now for the third line of text, which is to this card as frosting is to cake. This guy is a Fog build-around.

Imagine swinging with Questing Beast and some mana up. After your opponents block, you cast Fog or a [elFog[/el] equivalent, then blow them out in combat. Questing Beast kills whatever blocks it, plus your other creatures likely dole out some damage. Or, if your opponents elect not to block, you can go after both them and their planeswalkers.

All that said, I see no evidence that a Fog commander is desirable among the EDH player base. Seems like it might be fun at first, but I expect the deck’s relatively easy to play around once the table knows what you’re doing. An interesting card. It’s just not destined for popularity.

My Prediction: Under

Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig

 Disappointingly, this jolly green giant has nothing to do with frozen food. Points off there already.

It’s got pseudo-Evolve, which is a cute design but not enough to get me excited about a mono-green commander with moss on his arms. Come on, man. Take a bath or something!

My Prediction: Under

Grumgully, the Generous

Grumgully wins the award for best flavor text, best facial hair, and best glowing mushroom arrangement. He's also got some dope stuff going for him. A few off the top of my head:

Of all those bullet points, the middle is the most compelling. There are tons of three-card combos with this goof, all of which involve any Persist creature and a sacrifice outlet. Blasting Station gives infinite pings, Ashnod's Altar gives infinite mana, Altar of Dementia gives infinite mills…all compelling for an uncommon commander.

So the question is, how much do EDH players like infinite combos? I suppose you could play Grumgully fairly, though I’m sure it’ll become so synonymous with combo kills that non-combo versions of the deck will become unfairly targeted, anyway.

My gut instinct is to go Under here. Though the combo potential is alluring, I’d expect most play groups to hate out the deck every time they see it, which will lead many deckbuilders to shy away from building it.

My Prediction: Under

Chulane, Teller of Tales

Allow me to tell you a tale. Ahem.

There was once a Bant commander that caused controversy because of its power and broad application. Some complained the card was too easy to play and didn’t require much strategy to build around.

Nonetheless, the author of The 600 article series cared not. He cared only for the popularity of the card in question, and he expected it to be quite high. For what other commander can lead blink, landfall, Adventure, or general goodstuff decks with such panache?

“None other,” proclaimed the 600 author. “‘Tis in a class unto itself!”

And so it was that Chulane earned the greatest honor of the 600…

My Prediction: Over (Can’t Miss Pick!)

Korvold, Fae-Cursed King

Check that flavor text. In the pantheon of wedding disasters, Korvold's ranks somewhere between The Red Wedding and the fight at Chris and Krystal's wedding on this season of Bachelor in Paradise.

Aside from that, I’ll admit, I was unimpressed by this card at first glance. Mandatory sacrificing isn’t my jam, even if it leads to card draw and +1/+1 counters. But then I took a moment to consider.

The Jund color combo has tokens aplenty, doesn’t it? Goblins from red, Saprolings from green, Zombies from black. Red also offers Treasure, green offers Clues, and both green and black offer the new Food tokens. Plus, Jund is the go-to color combo for land retrieval, meaning Korvold can snack on one’s lands without much downside.

Oh, and another thing I forgot to mention: I believe all four of the Brawl deck commanders will be super popular. Why? Because it’s a flashy new product line, it’s made for casual play, and all four commanders are just plain cool. Think of it like the added boost the face commanders get from the preconstructed decks.

All this is to say that Korvold, Fae-Cursed King has vastly surpassed my initial evaluation. So do I take this Dragon Noble to be my lawfully wedded Over?

My Prediction: Over (I do.)

Alela, Artful Provocateur

Alela’s flying, deathtouch, and lifelink leave her just a vigilance and Proliferate short of being Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, the most popular commander in the history of EDHREC. Good company so far.

Her next line of text has broad application for a number of strategies and tribes, perhaps most notably with Faeries. Speaking of which, Alela produces them whenever you cast an artifact or enchantment. I believe this makes her the de facto Faerie tribal commander for the foreseeable future.

And let’s not forget that she’s one of our Brawl commanders. Can I have two Can't-Miss Picks?

My Prediction: Over

Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale

Listen, I love Gwyn's flare for dramatic visuals, but if I'm a knight in her army, I'm gonna be like, "Yo G, can you please douse your flaming sword? We're standing on a field of dry grass and you're wearing a billowy cape, plus your horse looks like it's about to keel over. Show some restraint, girl."

Despite the fire hazard, you gotta like Syr Gwyn. Let's start with her colors. EDH players love Mardu, as evidenced by the popularity of such commanders as Edgar Markov, Kaalia of the Vast, and Queen MarchesaWhat’s more, she's a boon to Equipment decks, which have proven to be popular. The Equipment theme currently boasts 5,304 decks. 

Finally, black-white Knights were first teased as a tribe in Dominaria, albeit without a particularly exciting commander (Aryel, Knight of Windgrace leads just 310 decks). Syr Gwyn brings an additional color and a strong reason to play Knights. Just pack a fire extinguisher.

My Prediction: Over


Under 600

Over 600

Can't Miss Pick

And they all lived happily ever...

Never mind. Just enjoy the set.

Kyle A. Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living somewhere in upstate New York with his wife, their daughter, and three wild animals. His current favorite card is Titania, Gaea Incarnate. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.